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Protesters block Berlin Wall gallery demolition
Photo: DPA

Protesters block Berlin Wall gallery demolition

Published: 01 Mar 2013 12:27 GMT+01:00
Updated: 01 Mar 2013 12:27 GMT+01:00

Hundreds of angry demonstrators on Friday stopped part of the remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall from being torn down to make way for a planned block of luxury flats.

Around 300 protesters gathered on Friday morning to form a human chain in front of the East Side Gallery, a world-famous 1.3-kilometre stretch of the Berlin Wall, covered on the eastern side with huge works of art by international artists expressing hopes for peace and understanding.

Creators of a Change.org petition which has now received almost 38,000 signatures against the destruction, sent out an email on Thursday evening to people who had signed, calling on them to get down there and demonstrate.

After a couple of hours of increasingly tense stand-off between the crowd and police, tentative cheers greeted a police announcement that demolition work would be suspended until further notice.

Organisers have announced a second demonstration planned for Sunday afternoon.

Online activists were determined to use the time gained to try to persuade politicians to prevent the sections of the Wall being removed. They established the hashtags #mauerkette and #moratorium to send messages to Berlin's Social Democrat mayor Klaus Wowereit, demanding he intervene to stop the demolition.

Others slammed the Green party's Franz Schulz, mayor of the city's eastern district of Friedrichshain, for an attempted cloak-and-dagger operation to avoid such a protest.

Schulz had tried to keep the demolition quiet to avoid the kind of confrontation seen on Friday and had continuously refused to meet with critics before presenting a fait accompli to the public, according to Michael Braun, culture expert in the Conservative CDU party opposition in the Berlin Senate.

"It's barbarism against Berlin and barbarism against art," he added.

Activists are hoping to gather 50,000 signatures for their petition before presenting it to Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Joachim Gauck, Mayor Wowereit and Maik Uwe Hinkel, the investor behind the controversial "Living Levels" project - a 63-metre-high tower block to be built on the narrow stretch of land between the Wall and the river bank.

Several more concrete segments of the Wall - a total of 22 metres - are due to be removed at an unspecified point to provide access for the 36 new private luxury flats, which will be sold for up to €7,000 per square metre.

But Andreas Weeger, a member of the district parliament of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg familiar with the legal situation told The Local only the Berlin Senate has the power to stop the construction work on the Spree. The Senate has always supported the planning applications for the luxury flats, said Weeger, which date back to 1992.

"Only the Senate of Berlin would have been able to stop it, as the district does not have the money to pay compensation to the owners of the premises," Weeger told The Local. "In our latest attempt to stop the plans, at the end of last year, the Senate refused to help."

Josie Le Blond

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Your comments about this article

13:37 March 1, 2013 by blackboot11
"Only the Senate of Berlin would have been able to stop it, as the district does not have the money to pay compensation to the owners of the premises," Weeger told The Local. "In our latest attempt to stop the plans, at the end of last year, the Senate refused to help."

they certainly 'found' the MILLIONS to waste on the new airport...

And I am sure that the tourist will not be comeing to Berlin to see the new schloss that is also a huge waste of money. Tourism is one of Berlins largets industries and they sure are working overtime to destroy that one too...
13:48 March 1, 2013 by melbournite
its not just barbarism against Berlin and art, its barbarism against world history. It shouldnt matter a crock which rich prick owns what land, there should be laws against the destruction of cultural heritage. But of course laws are made for the rich. It gets down to what it always gets down to - people power
15:45 March 1, 2013 by LecteurX
I'm an adopted Friedrichshainer, been living 5 minutes away from the East Side Gallery for the last 5 years. I used to like it, before the 2009 makeover it underwent to look "pretty" for the 20-year Mauerfalljubiläum of that year. Since then it has looked a lot tackier and touristier, and many of my favourite frescoes had gone.

BUT,

I cannot believe what is going on today. I cannot believe that Berlin can so brazenly destroy one of the most significant significant remnants of its recent history, which means so much to the whole world. The East Side Gallery is a jewel, it is precious. Not because of the tacky paintings it displays, but because of the historical symbolism of the Wall. I don't care about the paintings. Whitewash them, replace them, keep them, whatever. But the Wall! Words fail me. Berlin stoops to new lows every day now. This is an absolute disgrace. All our politicians are in it. Including the cuddly "greens". What a shame. What a shame.

What do they want to do with our city? Some kind of ridiculous Dubai with currywurst and perpetual grey skies? I will join the demo on Sunday. I will join the fight against this atrocity.

And at the time I'm writing this comment, the number of signatures on the petition has soared to top 32,000. That's 5,000 more than this morning. It's growing at the rate of 100 signatures per minute at least.

Good job politicians! You have opened our eyes. Be prepare to answer our questions.
15:48 March 1, 2013 by Sperfeld
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
16:19 March 1, 2013 by catjones
It's called 'private property' for a reason. The State put the wall on private property and the owners of that property had no recourse. Why don't the 300 art-lovers pool their resources and buy the property?

Oh, that's right:it's better to curse the darkness than light a candle.

Hypocrites.
16:23 March 1, 2013 by LecteurX
@ Sperfeld: click the link at the end of the article. Or take this URL.

http://www.change.org/de/Petitionen/herr-wowereit-east-side-gallery-retten-keine-luxuswohnbebauung-auf-dem-ehemaligen-todesstreifen

My pleasure :-)
16:34 March 1, 2013 by raandy
It is truly sad to lose this historical wall.

Gentrification puts another Berlin heritage site into the hands of the heavy money developers.
16:56 March 1, 2013 by coffeelover
I don't get it. I am only 1 generation away from being born in Germany, and though I am intensely interested in Germany, and whats happening there, I could care less about a concrete wall from the cold war. Tear it down and march forward with father time. The pics I see of it are covered in grafitti/gang signs, which is as ugly as the cold war was.
17:09 March 1, 2013 by LecteurX
@ catjones - "the State put the wall on private property". What about the artist's rights on their artistic creations (even if I don't like much of it)? What anyway is this codswallop about the wall being private property? You're completely out of your mind. That's not true. The East Side Gallery has been under "Denkmalschutz" ("monument protection status") since 1991. It's because of useful idiots like you that Berlin is destroying its heritage and history before our very eyes.

@ coffeelover - yeah some people are not interested in history. All they want is business, business, money, money, profit, profit. And nice "pretty" things. It's a nice world you want to *sell* us. Let's transform Berlin into some sort of Dubai! Let's make palm-shaped islands on the Spree. Guess what: we're not interested.
17:40 March 1, 2013 by melbournite
@coffeelover "I could care less about a concrete wall from the cold war"

yeah, you obviously dont get it. Its not about a concrete wall, but about 10,000s of people standing up to tyranny and achieving freedom. Over a thousand people died over the years to bring that wall down, doesnt their memory deserve to be preserved? The fall of the wall was the crucial event that led to revolutions throughout Eastern Europe, the collapse of the USSR and the end of the Cold War. Moreover the people power that brought down the Wall is not a one off event - we *always* have to be prepared to stand up to corrupt gvts and their bully boys (and girls) in uniform. Does not that deserve to be remembered?

But no, lets destroy all that so that a few corrupt powerbrokers can make a lot of dosh
18:59 March 1, 2013 by LiberalGuy
It will be less than 2 minutes after those apartments go up, before the antifa types in the city would of covered in it graffiti or a worse piece of vandalism.
20:04 March 1, 2013 by Kidshine
Oh deary deary me, have you people only just realised what is going on in Berlin?

Surely the closure of Tacheles gave you an idea?

Or the shutting of 4 squats in the last 4 months?

Or how about with your favourite monument the East side gallery, when they ripped out 40 foot of it so O2 could have a landing stage for their VIP's a couple of years ago?

If you have been to any of these protests please feel free to continue discussing the gentrification of Berlin, if however you are all, as I suspect, more of the armchair warrior types who think that signing a petition is going to stop these developments (Tacheles had over half a million signatures bz the way), please please please go back to watching Tatort and be content in the knowledge that you have not and never will change anything.
20:46 March 1, 2013 by coffeelover
You guys are funny like women change their minds funny. First the German people want to tear the wall down, now it's "art" cause someone put graffiti on it, or painted a mural on it, AND an integral part of history that somehow must be preserved and cherished. Well if that is more important to you than helping East Germans blend back into German society, that must be why my grandparents left Germany. I feel sorry for East Germans who have to watch West Germans make a big deal out of some concrete while they wallow in misery, ignored, left behind through no fault of their own. Way to run your country.
20:50 March 1, 2013 by melbournite
@Kidshine not everyone here is from Berlin and so doesnt know whats been going on. However you only have to be a citizen of the world to be aghast at this. Instead of running people down you would do best to harness their energy
21:07 March 1, 2013 by Kidshine
@Melbournite and what energy is that pray tell?

These people have read an article and are lamenting in the comments section how bad it all is, yet it is guaranteed that none of these lazy b*****ds has gone to any of the protests mentioned.

Posting in the comments section of an online news site does not translate to them having "energy" you hippy.
22:24 March 1, 2013 by McM
Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
00:06 March 2, 2013 by jarkis
Instead of tearing down that wall they shout tear down The Soviet War Memorial,I can believe that such of monument was erected in German soil after so many woman's were rape by Russians soldiers and after so many German soldier give they lives for Germany..!!!! that monument is a disgrace and a slap in the face for the German people and specially for Berliners,,,,
04:11 March 2, 2013 by catjones
LecteurX...'history' is a figment of your squalid imagination.

Save your money and buy legacies. When you own them, you define them.
09:29 March 2, 2013 by melbournite
@Kidshine May the gentle spiritual light of the Maharishi suffuse your bitter soul and ease your peptic ulcer my child
11:01 March 2, 2013 by Roberto Gold
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
11:28 March 2, 2013 by Berliner Mauer
As a Mauerkünstler who has worked on the East Side gallery and various conservation project for the Berlin Wall, I have done my best to see both points of views without simply being protective of losing my artwork to gentrification. It goes beyond the strokes of paint. What are we teaching future generations by tearing down a world symbol to cater to the wealthy?

I protested against Tacheles to the bitter end and had to admit defeat and I will do so for the East Side Gallery which I believe has broader consequences for Berlin than losing Tacheles or our squats.
12:11 March 2, 2013 by Kidshine
@melbournite thankyou, strangely I do feel better after that.

@Berliner Mauer, the problem is it is all part and parcel of the same thing, if you let them close the squats and the arthouses without a big fight, then investors move on to bigger things like the east side gallery and by then it's too late. 50,000 signatures on a petition will not change the situation as the land has already been sold and O2 set a precedent, it is too little too late unfortunately. Next thing you know the police will be using kettling tactics and we will be living in a new London.
10:26 March 3, 2013 by raandy
The city should find a solution to this destruction of history, if they can not afford to purchase the land , then what about moving all to a new location, granted is not the same but better than tossing out the baby with the bath water.

melbournite hang in there Martin :-)
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